Chris Flook: Using Video to Bring Local History to Life

Think about where you live.

Do you know when and why your community was settled? Do you know the origins of your county’s name. Do you know which tribes lived there before white settlers arrived?

For many of us the answer is no.

We have committed to memory nationally significant dates like Oct. 16, 1859, and Dec. 7, 1941, yet tend to have little knowledge of the history in our own backyard.

Ball State’s Chris Flook is working to change that. Surprisingly, he’s not a historian. He’s an associate lecturer in the Department of Telecommunications with a professional background in video editing and video post-production.

Local history just happens to be his favorite subject. He uses modern storytelling skills to visually depict the past in ways that normal people can relate to—and he teaches his students to do the same.

Through his use and teaching of motion graphics, web design, and advanced video production, he and his students have connected to the history of Ball State, Muncie, and surroundings near and far on a wide range of projects.

Saboteur—a 2018 video documentary Flook co-directed, wrote, and edited— shared the story of a Belgian-born Hoosier who fought Nazis as part of a World War II underground resistance. Another Flook-led documentary covered Ball State’s 100-years-history and included work by 41 undergraduate and graduate telecommunications students. Its premiere was a highlight of the opening Fall 2018 kickoff for Ball State’s Centennial.

“The students gained an understanding of what it takes to tell that story with so many moving parts.How do you show Ball State’s history in an hour and make it fair and representative and factually accurate?

“For immersive projects like this, students have to be extremely professional, hardworking, skilled, and generally exude a sense of excellence and strive to achieve great stories.”

Those are values Flook learned as a telecommunications student in Ball State’s College of Communication, Information, and Media, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“I don’t see local history often told outside of academic contexts,” said Flook, a lifelong Muncie resident. “By providing that same material in a way that is more accessible to the general population, it improves all our understanding, which is the point of research in the first place, that we all become smarter on a subject.”

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